Welcome aboard to a brand new board game ranked list. With thousands of board games out there, it may seem daunting to pick up a new game, so why don’t we narrow our scope of games and look toward rating and ranking a franchise? Let’s get on track as we look at the Best Ticket to Ride Games.
If you are new to board games or have heard of this and want to try it out, even for more veteran players, Ticket to Ride is about creating train routes and competing with other players to connect cities within various countries or continents. With its simple yet rewarding gameplay, Ticket to Ride has become a mainstay on many hobbyists and players’ shelves. Pair that with an almost annual expansion or mainline game release; your regularly scheduled fun trip always arrives on time.
I have played many variations of the game, not including other localized versions of the original game. Since its initial release in 2004, I have played thousands of hours with the base game, the Europe anniversary release, and its many expansions, both as the physical board game and its electronic versions. I have my biases and ideas on which mainline game remains supreme (“Rails and Sails” and Germany are my personal favorites), but I will do my best to be impartial in this ranked list.
With that in mind, let’s return to the rails and begin the Best Ticket to Ride Games ranked list.
Conductor’s Announcements (What’s in the list and how I ranked them)
Before we get on board, here are a few things that must be explained. Ticket to Ride expansions can be divided into major expansions and minor expansions. Major expansions are whole boards, maps, or inclusions that can be played without needing another Ticket to Ride game. Minor expansions are add-ons to the games that need Major expansions to be played. They can be played with other minor expansions, but you only want to play with one minor expansion at a time.
Between the two, I will create this list for Ticket to Ride’s different expansions. I’ll rank them from my most recommended expansion to my least recommended, using the original 2004 game version as the baseline and going from one expansion to the other based on their enjoyability and how much they add to the game.
- Gameplay: What new things are brought to the base game, from mechanics to maps.
- Complexity: How difficult the mechanics or changes are, if they are fun to learn and repeat, and how far the mechanic can affect the game.
- Personal Enjoyment: This is how I rate the game based on experience, how much fun I had playing it, and how much I would recommend the expansion to others.
By no means am I saying that these games are bad or not worth playing; instead, I am saying that of the Ticket to Ride games, I would rather play the games closer to the top of the ranking than at the bottom. They are all great; some are more great than others. To simplify it, I will refer to the games by their subtitle and not include the older versions of expansions that have been updated and re-released. That said, our destinations for today are rated from most recommended to least.
Start of the Line: (15th Place) Ticket to Ride
- Release Year: 2004
- Mechanics: Base Game
- Map: USA
This is the lowest ranked on the list, not because it is bad but because the others expand and build on this magnificent game foundation. It’s the simplest and easiest to learn but still the gold standard. Its map is based on the USA railroads in the 1900s and can be played by up to five players. In this day and age, this is a classic and the best way to learn how to play the game since its rules are what built up the other editions.
14th Place: 10th Anniversary Edition
- Release Year: 2014
- Mechanics: USA 1910 Expansion, Longest Route Bonus
- Map: USA and Southern Canada
While I am a big fan of the classics, this edition of Ticket to Ride is equivalent to a high-definition remake of an old game. Its changes are purely visual, and while it does add the USA 1910 expansion, I usually play the base game with the expansion anyway, so it feels like adding something that should have already been with the game, to begin with.
Still, this game is what I recommend new players pick up since it’s much more beautiful than the baseline. The USA 1910 expansion adds cards that can give more destination tickets, bonus awards for completing certain achievements, mystery trains, and a replacement deck for the original game that is more balanced and also visually updated.
13th Place: Map Collection 3: Heart of Africa
- Release Year: 2012
- Mechanics: Increased value of routes through Terrain Cards
- Map: South of Sahara and Africa.
This is one of the worse expansions to the game, but that is mostly due to my dislike of the mechanics and map that this edition provides. It feels clunky in groups of three or four, and even in groups of five or six, the game feels too drawn out and takes too long to go through the extra steps.
For this map, you are exploring the African savannah, and to emulate that, an additional terrain deck is added to the game. Routes in this regard must pass through specific terrains to be completed; additionally, you must have the corresponding number of cards to discard and the same number as other players. It’s due to all of this monitoring and double-checking that bogs the game down immensely.
I am sure some people enjoy this mechanic, but I am not one of them. The additional deck adds too many steps to this game and feels like a downgrade than an upgrade.
12th Place: Map Collection 4: Nederlands
- Release Year: 2013
- Mechanics: Tolls and coins
- Map: Netherlands
When looking at games, I note how many players can play the game versus the optimal number of players for full enjoyment. In this example, the more players you have, the more fun the game becomes, yet when you have four or fewer players, the game starts to be very one-sided, and the odd parts of the game start to stand out.
Nederlands (Not Netherlands) adds loans and double routes, thus suddenly making the board more open to travel. Due to the double routes, the destination tickets become more open to completion. This, of course, is balanced by the coins and the tolls you need to pay to expand your routes.
It’s great, easy to understand, and very linear. Usually, the winner is the one who can snag routes early, as the toll prices only go up as the train lines extend, its mechanic is a niche, but I enjoy it since I usually play in groups of five.
11th Place: Map Collection 1: Team Asia and Legendary Asia
- Release Year: 2011
- Mechanics: Team play, six player play, and Mountain routes.
- Map: Asia
This expansion is conditionally significant; playing the paired mode with a complete game of six players creates this perfect balance of chaos and laughter, as you cannot communicate without taking turns out of your turn. Legendary Asia is average; it makes unique routes blocking usage after completion.
Given that this map collection is two different maps, I rated them together and placed them in 11th place. Team Asia is conditionally fun; it best shines in a six-player game but can work with a four-player setup. It does not feel great when you are an odd number since the point of the team system is to have a partner. Since both team members do not know what the other member has planned for them, they have to think on the move; the restrictions on communication between teammates further compound this. It’s a great combination of chaotic energy and randomness as each team has to figure out their game plans while it’s ongoing.
On the other hand, Legendary Asia is extremely boring to me; all it does is add limited routes. If anything, it restricts the game further and takes away from it rather than adding that sense of limitation.
Overall with the map set to Asia, it’s a great time; further enjoyed if you can consistently have a large play group, but since I do not, it ranks 11th.
10th Place: Map Collection 6: France and Old West
- Release Year: 2017
- Mechanics: Building tracks while routes are being built, taking other route points
- Map: France and Old West
While I’m not too fond of this map collection, I can see how other people can like this map collection. It’s good, but it does not sit well with me, and I am not a fan of putting in the effort only for it to be nullified entirely by someone else. Let me explain:
In the France map, you need to color the routes (however, the short one-length routes are pre-colored, and grey ferry routes are also in the game). Once you color the route, it opens the game for anyone to take. You color routes by drawing cards; each time players draw a card, they add color to any open route. In the Old West map, you can place cities and score points based on your cities and routes. If your route ends at another player’s city, they gain points for that route.
Both maps need familiarity with the base game so that you can adapt to the changes each turn makes, from reacting to color changes to strategizing city placements for maximum scoring. Add in the fact that in the Old West map, you can lose your points as other players can take your cities. It’s not a great feeling watching tens of minutes of your game being stolen away from you, but that’s the subjective part; if you think this should place higher on the list, why not leave a comment with your experience of this map collection?
9th Place: Germany
- Release Year: 2017
- Mechanics: Passengers
- Map: Germany
Taking place on a high-quality version of the Marklin map, Germany is a reenvisioning of the Zug un Zug Deutschland otherwise known as the German release of the game. It adds the Deutschland 1902 expansion on the base Zug un Zug game and modifies the passenger mechanic from Marklin to a mediocre degree.
Honestly, I rate this lower than the Marklin expansion since the changes it made to it are actually worse. So this time, you pick up passengers from finished routes and deny those passengers from other players. Then the player with the most passengers of a specific color (the passengers are divided through colors) earns a bonus point for that color.
While the addition of the Deutschland 1902 is welcome, it is the same as the USA 1902 expansion but with the locations pointed towards Germany rather than the USA. This is a very average expansion, so it belongs in the middle of the pack at 9th place.
8th Place: New York
- Release Year: 2018
- Mechanics: Tourist attractions, Skyscrapers
- Map: New York
This is the board game on the go; it’s a scaled-down version of TTR with taxis taking place in Manhattan instead of trains worldwide. It’s short, sweet, and extremely easy to learn and play.
So rather than adding to the game, this expansion actually takes away from the game. There are no complicated mechanics or alterations to core rules, but it takes away the size and additional routes to keep it shorter and much quicker. It’s now cut down from a forty-minute game to a twenty- or thirty-minute game. While I do not believe every game will benefit from a travel version, this one is fun to play.
The compact nature of the game has everyone speeding up. There are fewer routes to consider and less time spent planning and enacting complicated maneuvers. Add that with the skyscrapers and attractions that give bonuses to routes next to them, and you have yourself a miniature version of the New York City taxi system.
7th Place: Map Collection 2: India and Switzerland
- Release Year: 2011
- Mechanics: Mandala bonus, Timed Destinations
- Map: India and Switzerland
Weirdly, this is the only map collection where the two maps drastically differ in my ratings, so I placed it in the middle of this list. India has the Mandala mechanic, which makes it extremely interesting since you need to figure out how to make a massive loop. On the other hand, Switzerland favors the point lead, as the deck of destination tickets can expire and end the game early.
In that sense, India allows for more complicated strategies and more time for planning. Switzerland is more for blitzing maps and luck into the correct destination cards that let you end the game early. I love the Mandala mechanic and the planning aspect that the Indian map brings, but I dislike the luck-based aspect of the Switzerland map.
There is a massive sense of accomplishment when you are tallying points and scoring a massive forty-point loop in the Indian map. At the same time, you will be disappointed more often when watching your destination cards expire on the Switzerland maps. It mixes extreme high and low points with very little in between.
6th Place: Rails and Sails
- Release Year: 2016
- Mechanics: Water routes, Harbors
- Map: “Global”, Great Lakes
This expansion adds boats to the game and is the most complex. Here you lose points if you cannot complete your tickets, and you need to choose how you want to balance your train and boat tokens since once a player goes below a total of six, everyone has two turns to finish their plans, then the game ends.
Luck in this expansion does not punish you for being unlucky but rewards you for being extremely lucky in the form of tour route cards. These show multiple cities that must be connected over a long distance on the map in exchange for a much higher point value. Planning comes in the form of tanking a penalty to switch your ships for trains and vice versa; if you plan well enough, you can even prevent a penalty during the setup of the game.
It’s perfect if you are looking for that feeling of pieces falling together, like completing a puzzle and seeing the full picture without any missing spaces. My only issue with the game is that since skill takes such an important part of the game, it’s very obvious when someone is much more skillful than other players. However, is that even a fault of the game at that point?
5th Place: Map Collection 7: Japan and Italy
This collection adds the bullet train, a shared project between players that allows them to move their token the entire length of the bullet train route. It gives bonus points and penalties based on who contributed the most or least. It also adds region-based points on the Italian side, which are points based on connecting regions, with the more central areas being worth two points instead of one.
Both maps are complicated in their own ways; Japan encourages a fast-paced game that moves from coast to coast while ensuring that everyone tries to compete for being the highest contributor towards the bullet train route. Add a subway system on top (or below it) of all this, and you have easy access to routes while also needing to focus a portion of your efforts toward the central bullet line. On the other hand, Italy is much slower and methodical; you need to plan much more since there is no guarantee that the regions you want to connect can still be routed, yet you need to centralize your routes since those are worth more points than other regions.
I love both sides of this game; it’s extremely fun and has no downsides. Now that we are in the top five, the expansions listed here will be very subjective, in my opinion, what genres I enjoy and what mechanics are extremely fun.
4th Place: Marklin
- Release Year: 2006
- Mechanics: Passengers, Merchandise Longest route bonus
- Map: Germany
Marklin is a fascinating entry since it introduces “timed” passengers and changes how to use train stations. The map takes place around Germany and its surrounding countries and has a weird balance on the east and west sides of the maps, with one side being more densely populated than the other.
The passenger cards award points if you can deliver them on time. This is done through merchandise tokens that populate the cities, so it’s a balance of racing to build tracks and taking high-value tokens from cities before other players. It’s a perfect blend of offense and defense.
I believe that adding a timer on your points adds a sense of risk when taking on more routes and trains. Rather than gathering cards turn after turn until you have the perfect hand, you are forced into action and interact with the game. What puts it at 4th is that not everyone enjoys these mechanics, but most people enjoy the increased interaction and gameplay. It’s perfect for spicing up the classic experience.
3rd Place: Nordic Countries
- Release Year: 2007
- Mechanics: Train card Exchange, Special “wild” Locomotives
- Map: Scandinavia
So no new mechanics are added to this game if you first played the Europe expansion. While tunnels function similarly, they changed how ferries work, requiring locomotives to power them. What they did do, however, was shrink the map size and place it around the Nordic countries. This forces players to play more aggressively and competitively over the small space since there are no double routes or alternative systems.
The smaller map encourages two to three players rather than four and up. If I’m looking for a short game, this is a go-to. The game focuses on blocking other players’ routes and, from there, trying to build your route while being impeded by other players. While similar to other travel-sized games, this downscaling does not remove anything from the game or simplify it. Rather the decreased size adds more nuance to the game and gives it its own identity in this fashion.
This is my favorite short game. It takes around 20-30 minutes to complete and can give some intense moments when all the players on the board are equally skilled and dancing together in a massive game of tug-of-war over the available routes.
2nd Place: Map Collection 5: United Kingdoms and Pennsylvania
- Release Year: 2015
- Mechanics: Stocks, Technology
- Map: British Isles, Pennsylvania
As the final map collection on this list, I believe this is the best bang for your buck regarding those special maps. United Kingdoms and Pennsylvania is not the newest expansion to be released, it is not even the newest Map collection to be released, but it’s by far the most enjoyable and quickest to pick up and play with.
United Kingdoms adds Technology as a mechanic, which does slow down the game but does not bog the game down to a crawl. It provides a meaningful progression and upgrade path as you start from one to two train-long routes and then build your way to three to four train-long routes in other parts of the UK, including Scotland and Wales and routes built over the water.
Pennsylvania is also extremely great, as it adds Shares to the game. This allows you to buy shares of companies that are next to routes that the player builds. It’s simple, short, and sweet, while the map itself is one of the more colored maps (reducing the number of grey routes)
This is one of the least luck-reliant expansions that allow RNG room to give opportunities. It’s why I prefer it over the other expansions since luck only allows the opportunity to win the game rather than win directly. It has great replayability and truly makes you finish the game with a great sense of accomplishment with the route you have built.
1st Place: Europe 15th Anniversary
- Release Year: 2021
- Mechanics: Europe 1912, Orient Express, Ride with Max
- Map: Europe
This is the expanded and definitive edition of the Europe expansion. Still boasting the same map as the original TTR Europe, this hardly changes anything mechanically from the Europe expansion. It still has tunnels, ferries, and stations to help move the game along, but it adds the destination tickets from the Europe 1912 expansion. It’s aesthetically pleasing and has these neat metal tins to hold your pieces.
It’s easy to pick up even for new players, yet the tunnels and ferries add additional routes that may help when planning a path to victory. Not to mention the train stations that allow for a clutch move by using other player routes; it’s a fantastic balance of depth and difficulty.
This is my favorite edition; hands down, I prefer playing this and choosing it over the rest. I like the introduction of train stations and alternate routes, and with the additional destination tickets already included, it gives many more scoring opportunities than usual. Since it comes with the Europe 1912 expansion, there are tons of destination tickets to hit and pieces to use in this; it lets you keep on playing as the map of Europe slowly fills up with the colors of your routes.
From the Snack Cart (Bonus)
These are not really Expansions but more like games under the name “Ticket to Ride” but are not considered part of the major expansions or games. These are spin-offs or games that are not cross-country route-building adventures. Below I list a few notable ones that I did enjoy.
- Card Game
- Orient Express ( was put into Europe 15th Anniversary)
- Mystery Train
- Europe 1912 (was put into Europe 15th Anniversary)
- USA 1910 ( was put into 10th Anniversary)
- Ticket to Ride: Alvin and Dexter
- The Dice Expansion.
End of the Line (Conclusion)
Ticket to Ride is a fantastic game that keeps on giving. While no longer maintaining annual releases, it occasionally comes up with an expansion or anniversary edition that breathes some freshness into the game. Each expansion brings something different to the table, and you would be hard-pressed to find one that does not suit the gameplay you are looking for. It’s perfect for non-gamers or people getting into the hobby to play, as it’s fast, fun, and quick to set up. I recommend you try these expansions if you can find them at your local game cafe or store.
Question: How many expansions are there for Ticket to Ride?
Answer: There are nine standalone expansion games, nine expansion games, and seven mini-expansions. In total, twenty-five expansions.
Question: What is the difference between Ticket to Ride expansions?
Answer: Some expansions introduce new mechanics, others change the map or in some cases add an additional map to play on. The smaller expansions usually add destination tickets and train cars to play with.
Question: Is Ticket to Ride a card game?
Answer: Technically, yes, the base game is a board game but they did eventually create a card game in 2008.
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